The Patriots have a kicking problem, and Nick Folk is not the answer.
It’s so easy to take a kicker for granted — especially if you’re a Patriots fan.
From Adam Vinatieri to Stephen Gostkowski, the Patriots enjoyed 24 straight seasons of elite, borderline Hall of Fame kicker play. Maybe that’s why it stings so much to watch them struggle at kicker now — or, maybe it just always stinks to not be able to trust your kicker.
Last year’s kicking struggles made sense. Gostkowski got hurt and hasn’t been the same kicker since then, so New England got by with what they could. This season, that excuse doesn’t fly anymore.
Nick Folk has now missed two kicks in two games. That’s 1-for-3 on the season. Against the Dolphins, he missed an ultimately inconsequential kick. Against Seattle, his miss changed the course of the game.
The Patriots lost by five points. Forced to try and find the end zone, Cam Newton was stopped on the goal line going in as time expired. It wasn’t quite as bad as throwing an interception on the goal line, but it was still heartbreaking. If Folk had made his kick, which he shanked badly, the Patriots could have made a chip shot field goal to win the game. If Folk had made his kick, the Patriots wouldn’t have had to go for two points in an attempt to get it back to a field goal game.
Now, of course there are more reasons than a missed kick that New England lost to Seattle, but it was a major factor. In fact, kicking is a major factor in tons of close wins and losses, because it changes your strategy throughout a game.
Do you trust your kicker from this distance? Are you chasing points that your kicker lost you?
It puts extra strain on the offense to score touchdowns, and not leave the game on the kicker’s foot. It forces the defense to make extra stops at inopportune times.
Against mediocre competition, this largely isn’t a big deal. Teams like the Jets can’t keep up with the Patriots on either side of the ball, but when New England takes on good teams like Baltimore or Kansas City, they could easily lose a game because of one lost possession.
Even if Bill Belichick is publicly sticking by Nick Folk, he needs to make a move to fix the kicking game. We know he didn’t feel comfortable bringing Folk back as the kicker for the 2020 season. That’s why he drafted Justin Rohrwasser out of Marshall. Of course, that pick, from his tattoos to his talent, has been a huge mistake so far.
So don’t wait to try and find a new kicker in the next year’s draft. Find a kicker now, even if you have to drag them off the streets. Just find someone who can put the ball through the uprights, because you can’t go into games against good teams without a trustworthy kicker.